23 December 2006

Another brew in the works

My roommate from college is getting married soon, and he's coming to Austin in February for a bachelor party. I have been wanting to make another batch of beer but just never made the time to do it until now. Today I spent a couple of hours in the kitchen making a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. It's not really one of my favorites being that it's quite hoppy, but I'm going to have a lot of help drinking it when all the guys come to town.

I didn't take any pictures this time, but the process was visually similar to my first brewing experience. There main difference this time was that I used a mini mash recipe rather than an extract. Instead of steeping the grains in the water for fifteen minutes, I did it for forty-five minutes. The guys at the beer store said this would give it a fuller flavor.

Things went very smoothly except for one point where I left the kitchen for a little too long and the water boiled over. This was before I had added the malt extract so cleanup won't be too bad. The final specific gravity of the wort, 1.058, was just what the recipe called for. I will revisit the beer in another week to transfer it to a secondary fermenter.

14 December 2006

Karaoke Apocalypse

Last night Aspyr held its end of year party at La Zona Rosa and it kicked ass. I am continually impressed with the talent and creativeness of our employees. We booked the Dead Motley Sex Maidens band to perform their Karaoke Apocalypse set. One look at their songlist and I knew that this would make for a killer show. I can't recall a time when I sang at a karaoke event, but this one was completely different. When you sing at Karaoke Apocalypse, you become the lead singer for their live band. The thought of being a rock star for a night was enough to make me throw my inhibitions away and pick out a song to sing.

I knew that there would be plenty of great costumes at the party and I didn't want to feel out of place. I put together this hair band get-up and started practicing "Rock You Like A Hurricane". I'm pretty terrible about finding the right pitch, and I was butchering the Scorpions at home and in the car, so I went back to the list to find something easier. With only two verses and a simple chorus, "Breaking The Law" by Judas Priest was just what I needed.

At the start of the party I quickly threw back a few drinks of liquid courage. I was a little nervous, but definitely hyped up because I knew it would be fun. I believe I was the third or forth singer which I wasn't too keen about, but it's probably a good thing that I got on stage early so that I could enjoy the rest of the performances. I sang a little too fast during the first chorus and I'm sure that there were a couple off-key notes, but everyone said that I did a good job. It was such a fun experience that I am going to try and make it to other Dead Motley shows in the future.

If you want to see the other pictures from the party, you can just browse the directory because, with my hangover, I don't feel like making a nice webpage for them now.

At the end of the night a lot of us sang the Scorpions together and there's a short video of it on YouTube. Try and guess which one is me. :-)

11 December 2006

Gaming for a living

One thing I haven't mentioned yet on this blog is the fact that I took a new job in 2006. I had previously worked at Metrowerks since graduating college, but eventually our focuses no longer matched up after the Macintosh product was end-of-lifed. The majority of Mac-related jobs are in California and Seattle, but I was willing to hold out for a local job. I was thrilled to finally see an opportunity arise to get back on Macs and help program computer games in Austin with Aspyr Media. Several people have gotten jealous when I tell them that I play games for a living. To be more specific, I'm actually porting games to the Mac. In my case, that means another game studio has written a game for the Microsoft Windows OS, and Aspyr takes their source code and manipulates the game to run under Apple's Mac OS. It has been quite an experience so far for me getting to learn more about graphics and sound. As an added bonus, it is definitely much easier to explain to non-geeks than my old job was (working on software development tools with IDEs, compilers, debuggers, and such).

Anyway, I thought it would be a neat idea to post which games I've worked on so far. I've actually done work on a few more projects, but no official company announcements have been made about them yet.

July 2006 -- I started off helping with Sid Meier's Civilization IV. My colleague Brad Oliver has blogged about some of its difficult development process. It was all pretty new to me, but one thing I quickly became aware of is that the game loading music gets old very quickly.

September 2006 -- Aspyr had already released a PowerPC version of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 last year but it was sluggish when running on the new Macs with Intel chips. I worked on creating the Universal Binary patch for this game so it would run natively on those machines.

02 December 2006

YouTube clips -- Family Guy and John Petrucci

I thought I would share a few clips from YouTube that I find hilarious. I have no idea if my readers (there aren't but three or four as far as I can tell) will appreciate the humor, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Besides, I also want to try embedding a movie clip onto my blog.

This first one combines two different TV shows and a movie that I really like -- Family Guy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Star Wars. Luke Skywalker ends up pushing the limits just like Larry David always does.

This next clip is a parody of John Petrucci's Rock Discipline DVD. John, of Dream Theater fame, is an impressive guitarist, and I received this instructional DVD for Christmas last year. It is extremely difficult to follow not only because of his advanced techniques, but also because he is extremely boring, emotionless, and monotonous. One of the extras on the DVD has him talking about his touring gear setup. A YouTube user with a great sense of humor made this pardody by overdubbing this extra.

DIY day

Last Saturday I finally got to perform some long overdue service on my car. I had been putting off an oil change until I had all of the equipment to do it myself. I picked up everything I needed from the new Advance Auto Parts store near my house, but I quickly found out that the bottle jack I purchased was too tall to fit underneath my car. Of course I could have used the car's jack, but it is a pain to use and looks flimsy as hell. So when Sears put a floor jack on sale, I bought it and returned the other one back to Advance.

There were two things I wanted to do to my car. One was to change the oil, the other was to replace the fuel filter. Both were supposed to be pretty easy do-it-yourself tasks. A couple of years ago I found a VW forum which I've used from time to time to troubleshoot and fix my Jetta. Plenty of other VW owners have posted instructions on how to perform all sorts of repairs and modifications to the cars.

The most difficult part about changing the oil ended up being the removal of the oil pan drain plug. I was hoping to loosen it with a crescent wrench, but it was in such a tight spot that my wrench wouldn't fit. I had to go buy a combination wrench to work it loose, but even then it was really difficult to apply enough torque to unseat the drain plug. The rest of the oil change went like clockwork.

Next I jacked up the right side of the car so I could access the fuel filter (just in front of the right rear tire). The most difficult part of this task was finding and pressing the little button on each fuel line clip so that they would pull off of the filter. Just like earlier, once I had removed the old part, finishing up was pretty simple and went quickly.

Now that I have all of the tools for changing oil at the house, I wonder if my friends are going to want me to work on their cars too. I'm sure that it won't take much to bribe me because I enjoy doing these sorts of things.